We both shot off our stools instantly as if we had been simultaneously jabbed in the bum by a pin. But no squeals or expletives were uttered, as it was a fleeting glance of flank that had drawn our bulging eyes magnetically over the bank and not posterior pain. For more than a moment we stared into the clear cold depths waiting for the fish to surface again and answer my hopes, and maybe even Jeff's hopes as well!
Then it surfaced thrashing around, still hiding its true identity in the disturbed water. Again though it seemed possible that it might be as we both wished, a giant ruffe. Then in the tiniest swing from water to hand all hope drained away. It was weirdly close... but on this occasion there was no cigar going to be smoked in celebration. What had raised us up on such a uneventful day was in fact not a tiny giant in which we are both inclined towards, but was instead the second oddity of the day, a perch with no stripes...
We were meant to be zander fishing, checking out a new stretch of canal, but it turned out if there was as tipped any big zeds present, they hadn't got the memo to say that we were coming and they should eat. And thus so I had grown a little bored waiting and had begun messing around with my Mach 2 wand, which I have decided as a early new years resolution that I will take every were I go just in case and because it's brilliant.
Back to that perch - it looked normally odd if you get what I mean. Like a tiger that has no stripes. And like a tiger that has no stripes, its no less of a tiger, rather than something doesn't click to say that's what it is. I tried my best to get a good clear shot and in the bright light this was about the best of them. As you can see it wasn't washed out or anything and it's brethren, like itself, were reasonably well coloured but striped. I suppose only some in-depth genetic study of the entire Coventry canal population might determine why this one, or maybe many perch in this area, might lack the synonymous stripe of the billie, or possibly it was just that one in thousands that nature deems to be different.
It wasn't as I hinted before the first strange thing we had seen on this foray. A few casts prior to this I had caught a not dissimilar sized sarge that although perfectly normal in every way seemed to be in a strange situation for this time of year. Upon picking it up and unhooking it I noticed a yellow glob of what I thought was fish poo on my hand. It's not to unusual for a fish to defecate in your hand when you catch them but this stuff looked weird. Then on closer inspection I found it was not fish faeces but was instead eggs. The plump little fish which was obviously female was crammed full of eggs and it would she was so heavily laden that they were venting under the pressure.
Now I've seen this before, but only in the spring when fish are filling up ready to spawn the next generation of little perch and never have I seen this prior to Christmas. Both me and Mr Hatt were quite perplexed by it truth be told. I know we have some arse about face weather round these parts but spawning fish before winter, that don't seem right if you ask me. I would be interested to know if anyone else knows of, or has seen this before in perch, or do perch actually start filling up before the winter sets in as to be one of the first to spawn, like many other predators do early in the year?